More arguing with Austrians

Josh Barro has a great post up at Bloomberg reflecting on the onslaught. It does a nice job highlighting some of the same things that Krugman has run up against, I think.

What's funny is that a priorism (Barro) and opposition to fractional reserve banking (Krugman) are views that are passionately held by a lot of Austrians. Instead of acknowledging this and saying "but there's actually a diversity of opinions on both of these issues among Austrians", they get brow-beaten for it. That's no way to promote your views, particularly when both Barro and Krugman have accurately represented an important part of the Austrian school.

There is this weird tension where because of the heated divisions within the Austrian school, outsiders who make an honest attempt to grapple with it get treated like pariahs. Selgin is one of the few who reacted this more constructive way - saying essentially that he agrees opposition to fractional reserve banking is wrong, and that actually a lot of Austrians agree too.

Barro invokes the alleged empirical failure of The Road to Serfdom, and this is another minefield when talking about Austrians. Is it just about totalitarian socialism or is it a slippery slope argument about mixed economies or what? If you say it's just about totalitarian socialism you are guaranteed to get a contingent telling you you have no idea what you're talking about. If you say it's a criticism of mixed economies you are guaranteed to get a contingent telling you you have no idea what you're talking about (see Greg Ransom). You know how I react to that? It makes me never want to talk about The Road to Serfdom! This isn't like the arguments about excavating "what Keynes really meant" by differentiating Keynes himself from the years of theoretical synthesizing of his ideas, where one side gives a late twentieth century textbook boilerplate Keynes and the other gives a historical Keynes. That's not what we're really dealing with. These are people who disagree strongly about what the historical Hayek actually said, and will call you dishonest or poorly read if you don't agree with them.

Not sure where I'm going with this. It's messy business.